Three Sisters Wilderness and more now require permits for trail use

Josie Hinke

How the Central Cascade Wilderness Permits are affecting Oregon trails

Springfield and Bend Ore. - After being delayed in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Deschutes and the Willamette National Forests have begun requiring Central Cascades Wilderness Permits for overnight use in Mt. Jefferson, Mt. Washington, and the Three Sisters Wildernesses. Day-use permits are now required on 19 out of 79 trails in these areas.

The permit requirement began on May 28, 2021, and permits will be mandatory throughout the peak season, with the requirement ending for the year on September 24, 2021.

The permits cost $1 per person for day use and $6 per party (1-12 people) for overnight use. They can be reserved at Recreation.gov.

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South Sister Mountain in the Three Sisters Wilderness. The mountain now requires permits for day and overnight trail use.Josie Hinke

The Forest Service began requiring permits as a reaction to overcrowding at some of the wilderness areas’ more popular trails. There has been a 300-500% use increase over the last five years at some trails. The goal of the permitting system is to protect the nature of these wilderness areas by reducing crowding, while also keeping the trails accessible to all, with the low cost of the permits.

Fines for not obtaining a permit prior to trail use start at $200 and can be enforced by wilderness rangers, though the first year or so of the permitting system will focus on educating people about it and informing them of its existence. Repeat violators may be subject to harsher discipline.

The Central Cascades Wilderness Permits are being implemented in accordance with the Wilderness Act of 1964. The Act established the National Wilderness Preservation System, which requires the protection of Wildernesses designated by Congress to be preserved and to remain as natural as possible.

Some notable trails that now require day-use permits include the Pacific Crest Trailhead at McKenzie Pass, Broken Top Trailhead, and Devils Lake/South Sister.

Some exceptions to the permitting requirement include long-distance Pacific Crest Trail hikers who have already obtained a Long-Distance Permit, volunteers for the Forest Service, and hunters with a general archery tag during hunting season.

Permits will be required from the Friday before Memorial Day to the last Friday in September annually. More information about which trails are requiring permits, and how many permits are available for each trail, can be found at the USDA Forest Service website.

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I am a PNW-based writer currently living in Seattle, WA. Much of my work focuses on accessibility and inclusion in the outdoor industry, but I also enjoy writing about lifestyle, arts and culture, and people.

Seattle, WA
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